Bears

Temper the enthusiasm (and expectations) for Lovie successor

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Temper the enthusiasm (and expectations) for Lovie successor

Nestled down at the very bottom of a ProFootballTalk news item is a bit of perspective that would be wise to keep in mind as the Bears go through their search process for a new head coach.

Mike Florio reported that Pete Carmichael Jr. is interviewing with the Bears. Carmichael is the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator, a significant post this season with coach Sean Payton suspended and has been since 2006 after stints with Cleveland, Washington and San Diego.

The immediate resume is borderline jaw-dropping: The Saints averaged 411 yards per game last season. Averaged. The Bears topped 400 just three times all year.

But heres Mikes note of note: Of course, it helps that Carmichael has had Drew Brees playing quarterback.

Beware the hot new guys

Various candidates will inspire differing degrees of euphoria in the media and general public. But apply Mikes qualifier to each one.

Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator

McCoy is hot after his Mile-High results. But he is unlikely to be getting on the plane with Peyton Manning, and its worth recalling the training-camp and OTA footage of Manning directing the offense. Thats no slight of McCoy, who clearly was fine with one of the games greatest serving as at least a co-coordinator.

RELATED: Under new head coach, how much can change?

That McCoy and the Broncos got to the playoffs and won a game with Tim Tebow also is impressive. Remember, though, that the Broncos are home in January if Marion Barber does not go brain-dead twice in a couple minutes vs. the Bears. And the Broncos were the NFLs No. 1 rushing team, not passing. They were 23rd in yardage per game and 24th in scoring at 19.3 per game. Even with six games using Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown and four with no Matt Forte, the Bears last year were 24th in yardage but 17th in scoring.

Keith Armstrong, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator

Joe DeCamillis, Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator

GM Phil Emery said on Tuesday that no one was excluded when asked whether Dave Toub was a candidate. Toub is arguably the NFLs best Teams coordinator but may have damaged any chances with his passionate support of Lovie Smith. The organization may not be seriously interested in someone who wanted someone it didnt.

Armstrong and DeCamillis are solid candidates. And Mike Ditka and John Harbaugh were special-teams coaches immediately before becoming first-time head coaches. But in the Gosselin composite rankings for special teams, the Bears ranked No. 4 in 2010 and No. 3 in 2011. The Falcons were10th and 23rd; the Cowboys were 20th and 21st.

Mike Sullivan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator

Sullivan has gotten something out of quarterback Josh Freeman, from a train wreck in 2011 to respectable this season. But Freeman threw nine interceptions over the final three games and Tampa Bay lost five of its last six, failing to score more than 23 points in any of the six and went from 6-4 to out of the playoffs.

The Bears didnt need to change coaches and offenses to achieve that kind of result. Freeman did rank one slot ahead of Jay Cutler, however, so Sullivan could help.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy is beginning to find his identiy

Bears head coach Matt Nagy is beginning to find his identiy

What the Bears did to the Dallas Cowboys in Thursday’s 31-24 defeat of the NFC East leaders was significant because of the complete offensive performance.

Based on quality of opponent, gravity of game and player performance, it was quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s career-best game. The 31 points scored by the offense was the most since the mauling of a JV Tampa Bay team last year (when Trubisky threw a career-high six touchdown passes).

And against the Cowboys the offense came back from difficult in-game situations twice.

It wasn’t the Bears that appeared to be settling into an identity that has eluded them through too much of the Matt Nagy era.

Reasons behind the performance against Dallas – collective and Trubisky’s individually – were far from exclusive to this game. Tight-end play, receivers and line doing their jobs are repeatable positives that tell fans an offensive performance like this can and should happen again, more than once.

The difference against the Cowboys? Nagy appeared to be settling into his own identity.

With varying levels of proficiency, his players were running what he laid out and told them to. That changed dramatically against Dallas.

Over the third quarter of the season and into the fourth with Dallas, Nagy has operated less like a coach forcing players into his system and more like a coach molding the offense around his players.

Maybe it was seeing first-hand how miserably coach Matt Patricia forcing the Detroit Lions into his iteration of the New England defense has worked. The Bears’ 2019 turnaround coincidentally started against the Lions.

Whatever the reason, Nagy appeared less lock-stepped with a significantly flawed pass-intensive plan (Green Bay, Oakland, New Orleans losses) that his own personal quarterback nature may prefer. Maybe this is his more adult inner-coach is taking charge.

Players, Trubisky foremost among them, could be excused for feeling some uncertainty about their offense when their coach didn’t have a clear sense of what that offense is or wants to be.

Not a “blame game” situation, however. Nagy, an inexperienced head coach, had a green quarterback on his hands. Trubisky’s true capabilities, comfort levels, and weaknesses are still evolving. Nagy is also dealing with the same route-running, drops, O-line issues and such that plagued Trubisky.

Critically, Nagy’s play-calling has leveled out without lapsing into predictability. He has been less riveted to a game concept with no regard for results and been more adaptable.

When the Bears won three straight to finish the season’s first quarter, Nagy had the offense run the football 29, 24 and 33 times. When he and the offense languished through four straight losses, the Bears ran the football 17, 7, 38 and 18 times.

Since then Nagy has called 24-24-26-23-34 runs and the Bears have won four of those last five.

That doesn’t make Nagy a runnin’ guy. It does, however, make the team better and improves his quarterback’s understanding of the offense.

“Probably three to four, five weeks ago, somewhere in that range where you really started to feel, ‘OK, we're moving the ball,’” Nagy said. “We felt it against the Chargers [when the Bears ran 38 times]. We just weren't good in the red zone, right? But we felt like, ‘OK we're moving the ball,’ that we were limiting three-and-outs.

“And ever since then there's just a great confidence amongst the teammates. They're feeling it, we're feeling it and I think it's reflecting in the game.”

Nowhere more apparent than with Trubisky against Dallas and hopefully going forward.

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NFC Wild Card Race: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 14

NFC Wild Card Race: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 14

The Bears did their part to keep their playoff hopes alive on Thursday night with a 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, thanks in large part to quarterback Mitch Trubisky's best game as a pro. But a slow start to the 2019 season and a 7-6 record means they still need a bunch of help to get into the postseason.

Here are the games Bears fans need to watch this Sunday.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings - 12 p.m. CT (Only available on NFL Sunday Ticket)

The Vikings (8-4) currently have possession of the final NFC wild card and should maintain their position after facing the Lions (3-8-1) on Sunday.

Detroit is an absolute mess. Third-string quarterback David Blough will make the second start of his career, and while he had some encouraging moments against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings (unlike Chicago, who found out he was starting just moments before the game) have had a full week to prepare for him. Expect a bunch of turnovers.

It would be nothing short of a miracle if Minnesota blows this one. Expect the Vikings to move to 9-4 and keep hold of their two-game lead over the Bears.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks - 7:20 p.m. CT on NBC (Click here to watch)

The other key matchup Bears fans should have an eye on in Week 14 is the Rams (7-5) vs. Seahawks (10-2). The Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Chicago because of their 17-7 win in Week 11, which means Los Angeles has to lose two of their final four games against Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco and Arizona (and that's assuming the Bears win out).

The Rams should have little trouble defeating the Cowboys and Cardinals, so it's critical Seattle gives Bears fans one of those two necessary L.A. losses.

Green Bay Packers vs. Washington Redskins - 12 p.m. CT on FOX (Click here to watch)

Lastly, the Green Bay Packers (9-3) take on the Washington Redskins (3-9). Believe it or not, a Packers loss keeps hope alive for the Bears and an NFC North championship. A Redskins victory is highly unlikely, but they weren't supposed to defeat the Panthers last week, either.

It's pretty simple: Wins by the Lions, Seahawks and Redskins will make Week 15's game against the Packers one of the biggest regular-season games in a very, very long time.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.